Latimer still weighing possible bid for Congress against fellow Democrat Bowman

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Westchester County Executive George Latimer confirmed that he's still weighing a run for Congress after speculation began months ago that he may challenge second-term Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman in a primary.

In an interview with The Journal News/lohud, Latimer said supporters have approached him since May about running for New York's 16th District seat and he's giving it serious consideration, though he's unlikely to make and reveal his decision for at least several weeks. He said he's focused for now on preparing the next county budget and wouldn't make any distracting political announcements anyway before the Nov. 7 election for county and local offices.

Either way, he said, he'll announce his decision publicly.

"It'll be an announcement that I think I can stand behind with force," Latimer said.

Bowman, 47, won a second term last year to represent the heavily Democratic district, which takes in the southern half of Westchester and a sliver of the Bronx. He's an outspoken progressive who won his seat in 2020 with an insurgent campaign against the more centrist Rep. Eliot Engel, who was trounced by a newcomer after nearly 32 years in Congress. At the time, Bowman was principal of a Bronx middle school that he founded.

Second term: Jamaal Bowman wins second term in 16th Congressional District, defeats Miriam Flisser

Two other Democrats already have declared their candidacies to challenge Bowman in 2024: Michael Gerald, a former state trooper and undersheriff who works in Latimer's administration as deputy correction commissioner; and Marty Dolan, an investor and financial adviser.

A seasoned, well-known politician in Westchester

Latimer, 70, would be a formidable addition to the field: he has held five different elected offices for 35 straight years without a single defeat. He's a former marketing executive who has served in government at the local, county and state levels and has led the county of 1 million people since he unseated Republican Rob Astorino in 2017.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer speaks to over 1,500 people at a Westchester Stands With Israel Rally held at the Temple Israel Center of White Plains on Oct. 10.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer speaks to over 1,500 people at a Westchester Stands With Israel Rally held at the Temple Israel Center of White Plains on Oct. 10.

Latimer is serving his second four-year term as county executive and is barred by the county's term limits from seeking a third in 2025. That gives him a reason to consider a congressional run if he wants to remain in politics.

He could likely tap a deep well of donors to power such a campaign. He had a hefty $453,000 in his account as of mid-July, despite his being unable to run for county executive again. (Bowman reported a relatively modest $185,000 in his own campaign account as of Sept. 30.)

Israel stance is likely factor in next race

Bowman's criticism of the Israeli government has angered some Jewish leaders and activists, prompting pleas for Latimer to challenge him, according to a Jewish Insider report in July. The brutal attack this month by Hamas terrorists that killed more than 1,400 Israelis, most of them civilians, has brought Bowman's stance on Israel and its long conflict with the Palestinians under particularly intense scrutiny.

Latimer spoke forcefully — and was met with thunderous applause — at a recent solidarity rally for Israel. Addressing a crowed of 1,500 at a White Plains synagogue, he denounced "anybody who has the word Democrat in their name that stands behind this action," meaning the Hamas attack, or tries to "put a human face on inhumanity."

Latimer said in the interview that the pleas for him to run have gone beyond that one issue. He said he'd heard from people who had supported him in past campaigns and had a variety of interests, including fiscal policies and votes on particular bills.

"It is not solely from the Jewish community, by any means," he said.

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who represents New York's 16th Congressional District, speaks at Macy Park in Ardsley on Aug. 15, 2023 about issues facing asylum seekers.
U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who represents New York's 16th Congressional District, speaks at Macy Park in Ardsley on Aug. 15, 2023 about issues facing asylum seekers.

Bowman's response to the Hamas attack

Bowman, in statements after the Oct. 7 attack, strongly condemned Hamas and mourned the loss of innocent civilian lives on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah. He also denounced a pro-Palestinian rally in New York City at which participants cheered the Hamas attack and some displayed swastikas.

"I condemn any demonstration that does this in the strongest possible terms," Bowman said. "We must proceed on the basis of recognizing our shared humanity."

Alarm flap: Jamaal Bowman pulled fire alarm in Washington. How did Westchester react?

Bowman is one of only about 10 out of 435 House members who declined to sponsor a House resolution proclaiming support for Israel after the attack. He's one of 16 Democrats sponsoring a different statement that calls for a cease-fire and refers to "occupied Palestine."

Chris McKenna covers government and politics for The Journal News and USA Today Network. Reach him at cmckenna@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Latimer weighs possible run against Bowman for Congress in Dem primary